Tigers unable to overcome strong second set run

It was a tale of two sets Wednesday night when Versailles (13-13-4) met Windsor (18-9-1) in the Class 2 District 13 semifinals at Cole Camp.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, none of the sets went their way as they fell to the Greyhounds by final scores of 26-24 and 25-11 and saw their season come to an end. After the Tigers nearly captured the first set, Windsor continued to roll in the second and never looked back.

“I’ll be totally honest and say that Windsor came ready to play tonight. I mean, they just had it in their minds that they were going to give us all we could handle and they succeeded there,” Versailles coach Jessica Ollison said after the match. “They kept their unforced errors down to a very bare minimum and I feel like our girls put a little too much pressure on ourselves to do some things that were probably outside of our normal comfort zone. That resulted in some pretty timely unforced errors and I think that was the difference.”

Victory was within reach in the first set. Windsor led by as many as four points, Versailles led by as two and after seven lead changes and 10 ties, all the Tigers needed was just one more point leading 24-23 late on a kill from senior Bri Hendrix. However, that game point never came as Windsor managed to score three straight unanswered points to win it.

And if the importance of taking the first set could not be emphasized enough, Windsor began the second set on an 8-0 run before Versailles could stop the bleeding. The Greyhounds proceeded to keep the Tigers at bay too, leading by as many as 14 points and only allowing Versailles to get within six with relentless rallies that did not allow any easy points to the Tigers. As pressure mounted, Ollison said the message was simple.

“I just told the girls to do what we’ve been doing all season and that is to go out on the floor, communicate and have fun. I mean, above all, those are the two things you have to do to be successful,” the coach remarked. “We did that pretty well the first set and I think after Windsor went on an 8-point run, the nerves kind of set in a little bit, we kind of pushed the panic button and lost a little bit of that. We lost a little bit of that fun and communication and pressed a little bit too much.”

Hendrix and fellow senior Brooke Edgar both put up seven kills while junior Taralee Edgar also fueled the attack with 15 assists. Hendrix also picked up two aces. Defensively, Hendrix and junior Carrie Hoffa both had a block and both Brooke and Hendrix finished the night with 10 digs.

A season-ending loss is never fun for any team to endure, but Ollison said there were some positives.

“I think our defensive intensity has improved a ton from the first of the year to where we are at now and I expect it to continue to improve,” the coach stated. “We have a lot of work to do in the offseason and tonight kind of proves that to us. We have to get more athletic, more intense, quicker, faster and stronger. If there is a silver lining, it is that we get to come back and try it all again next year.”

However, Ollison also did not hesitate to empathize with her seniors on a tough ending to their high school careers.

“My heart goes out to the seniors. I’ve been there and done that so I know how that feels,” she said. “It is awful and especially when you feel like there was a legitimate shot that we could have gone a game or two further.”

And their presence on the court will certainly be missed.

“I don’t think there is any question about that,” Ollison said. “Brooke and Bri are both just fantastic outside hitters and fantastic kids that were constantly competing on both offense and defense. They are both all-around players and fantastic at what they do so they will be missed. Being our libero (defensive specialist), Hope (Heimsoth) came in and she was kind of our vocal captain on the court. I told her from the start that she was not out there for her defense, but because she has great positive leadership and she brings great energy to the floor that we needed. We have huge shoes to fill next year.”

The good news is that may very well be accomplished with the players that are coming back.

“You are always sad when things end, but you can’t help but look forward to what you have coming up,” Ollison said. “We have a very strong sophomore class that will be juniors next year and our junior varsity was 17-8-2 so they enjoyed a lot of success this year. They are good all-around players and athletes so I’m excited to get them in the gym, work them and hopefully we’ll be able to fill those big shoes that are leaving.”